City preaching awareness, caution on COVID-19

Covington officials taking steps to mitigate spread, impact
COVINGTON, Ky. - Pay attention and begin taking commonsense protective steps.
That’s the message from the City of Covington to its residents and employers as a global outbreak of acute respiratory disease - called COVID-19 after the new strain of coronavirus that causes it - has spread into the Commonwealth.
“While there are as yet no reported cases of COVID-19 in Covington or Northern Kentucky, experts believe it’s only a matter of time, and there are steps that can be taken now to mitigate its spread and human impact,” City Manager David Johnston said.
Johnston said the City was taking a number of initial steps as one of Covington’s largest employers in hopes that others would follow suit: 
  • Encouraging employees and others to practice good hygiene (see tips below), and making supplies like hand sanitizer available so they can do so. City staff are also regularly wiping down surfaces around City Hall like door handles, light switches, and microwave keypads with alcohol wipes to kill germs. 
  • Directing City employees to complete a mandatory online training course on coronavirus and flu. 
  • Directing City employees who are sick to stay home, rather than spread illness to co-workers and citizens. 
  • Preparing for potential radical changes to workflow and service delivery, should the outbreak worsen. These might include categorizing employees into those who provide “essential” and “non-essential” services, as well as greatly expanding the capacity of certain employees to work at home, Johnston said. “Obviously these would be last-resort responses, but we have to be prepared for anything - already popular events around the country are being canceled, nursing homes and prisons are limiting or prohibiting visitors, and officials are encouraging people not to gather in large groups,” Johnston said. 
  • Sharing updates as necessary from health agencies and the state on the City’s social media and website. City communications manager Dan Hassert said the City would be deferring “to the experts” and primarily serving as a news service in passing along critical information and guidance.
 The public has three places to go for trustworthy and updated information about COVID-19 and its public impact: 
  • The Northern Kentucky Health Department, HERE.
  • The Commonwealth of Kentucky, HERE, with a hotline (800) 722-5725.
  • And the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HERE
Laura Brinson, the Health Department’s Public Health Impacts administrator, encouraged the public to use the state’s hotline to get questions answered and to check the local department’s webpage frequently.
“As things change, we’re working to update the information as fast as we can,” she said.
What people can do
Brinson said the Health Department was preaching commonsense tips, especially for high-risk groups like adults over age 60 and people with chronic medical conditions:
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly (for 20 seconds is the usual rule).
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.
  • Cover your hand and fingers with a sleeve or tissue when you must touch “high-touch” surfaces in public places like elevator buttons, door handles, and handrails.
  • Avoid huge crowds when possible.
  • Stay home if you’re sick. 
People who are showing symptoms like a fever, cough and trouble breathing should call their doctor or other health-care provider for advice on what to do next, Brinson said. They should NOT show up unexpectedly at a hospital emergency room or urgent treatment facility expecting to be tested for COVID-19, unless they have a medical emergency.
“This is something to take seriously,” said Dr. Lynne Saddler, director of the Health Department. “It’s not time to panic, but it’s time to take proactive steps.”
As of this release, Kentucky had eight confirmed cases of COVID-19, with the closest to Northern Kentucky being in Harrison County, said Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, who is providing daily updates via social media and press conferences.
As of Tuesday, the World Health Organization reported more than 113,000 cases and 4,000 deaths around the world as the virus continues to spread, although those numbers are increasing by the day.
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